A report from a North Sea pilot on board a loaded VLCC approaching the SW lane of the Dover Straits highlighting a Colregs contravention.
What the reporter told us:
I was piloting a VLCC with a 20.3m draft en route from Skagen to Ningbo via Brixham. As we left the deep water route at the Nord Hinder junction we turned to starboard to proceed in a SW direction towards the Dover Strait TSS. We observed a target approaching the SW bound lane with a small CPA and a TCPA of approximately 20 minutes. The target appeared to have come from the River Thames and according to the AIS data the vessel was proceeding to Rotterdam.
I contacted the vessel on VHF 16/77 to ask his intentions. His reply was that he intended to pass astern of the vessels ahead of me. I advised him that his planned routing was not really acceptable and that he should really head up to the NHR-S buoy before turning to starboard to head for Rotterdam. He actually agreed with my statement. I also pointed out Rule 10 and that he should be aware of Coastguard/VTS surveillance.
As the vessel approached the SW lane he passed ahead of my ship safely but did not act in accordance with Rule 10 and blatantly continued on a NE heading towards Rotterdam.
Additional information confirmed that the reporter was on a 333m x 60m loaded tanker following the recommended routing and that the vessel was exhibiting the three red lights in a vertical line as required by Rule 28 to signify a vessel constrained by its draft. In addition, the vessel was included in the Channel Navigation Information Service (CNIS) broadcasts by Dover Coastguard.
The contravening vessel was a 140m x 22m feeder container vessel and was a frequent trader on the Thames, Rotterdam and Kingston-upon-Hull route. It appeared to be taking a direct line between the Thames estuary and Rotterdam approaches. Such a course is contrary to the TSS and recommended routing.
Screen shots of the contravening vessel making no attempt to cross TSS lane at 90°
The Maritime Advisory Board members, after discussion, noted the following points.
- The location is a very busy area with various TSS’s and recommended routing areas converging and diverging.
- The Collision Regulations, including Rule 10 in this case, are obligatory for all vessels and as such must be complied with.
- Deep draft vessels can advise the local Vessel Traffic Service and/or Coastal Radio Station of their presence i.e. ETA at given points and speed of transit. Such information will then be promulgated in broadcasts. A rogue ship will still ignore the rules but such information broadcasts will assist most ships to avoid the large deep draught vessels that navigate our narrow, shallow, congested coastal waters.
- The frustrating thing about this report is that even in an area of intense vessel monitoring and surveillance there is no effective enforcement of the regulations or penalty for non-compliance.
- Vessels should be actively encouraged to report rogue vessels that are blatantly contravening the Collision Regulations, particularly in areas where radar surveillance or monitoring is in place to draw the attention of the authorities to these rogue ships. Hopefully this will reduce the number of these incidents especially if there is a realistic expectation of prosecution by the maritime authorities.